A FORMER Stroud High School student, Lyn Cook, has received a silver medal to commemorate 25 years with the English National Opera.

It was under her guidance that the school choir won the coveted Gold Cup at Cheltenham Music Festival in 1969.

One of two children, Lyn, whose brother John, 64, plays in Stroud-based band Anomaly, grew up in Rodborough.

Inspired by her mother Peggy, 89, who sang with Stroud Choral Society, Lyn became the choir leader at Stroud High, praised by music teacher Barbara Thorley, who died in June.

"Miss Thorley was a wonderful teacher, full of so much encouragement," said Lyn, who sang at her funeral in Painswick.

Amazed by the strength of Lyn's voice, Miss Thorley took the teenager to see an experienced opera teacher at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

It was there that Lyn was warned to save her voice until she was older and Lyn was keen to pass this advice on to budding singers.

"Do not push your voice too soon," she said.

"Sometimes when young singers come along they try to do too much too soon. It is better to get there gradually, build your voice up gently."

Following the advice, Lyn did not resume her singing career until she was 24 when she enrolled at the Royal Academy for two years.

Afterwards, family life took over and Lyn dedicated her time to bringing up her children Pippa, now 31, and Jeremy, now 34, before returning to the stage at the age of 35, when she was selected to perform with the English National Opera.

"My voice changed over the years," said Lyn.

"I went from being a lyric soprano, with a very soft, sweet voice, to being a dramatic soprano, with a much stronger note," she said.

When her voice took on a different tone, Lyn began admiring the qualities of Jessye Norman, also a dramatic soprano.

"She has a seamless voice - it is like peaches and cream," said Lyn.

The first opera she went to see was Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado at Bristol Hippodrome with her parents.

"I thought I had died and gone to heaven," said Lyn, who was 14 at the time and longed to be centre stage.

Lyn is currently working on three operas - The Marriage of Figaro, The Passenger and Eugene Onegin - and appreciates the magic of being a singer in the chorus, although she has also performed as an understudy for roles such as Papagena in Mozart's The Magic Flute.

"You get such a big thrill when you perform in front of a big audience," said Lyn, who now lives in Chelmsford.

"There is nothing like the orchestra booming behind you as you sing your heart out."